Papers of Zoë Akins, 1878-1959


Descriptive Summary

Title: Papers of Zoë Akins, 1878-1959
Dates: 1878-1959
Collection Number: ZA 1 - 7330
Creator/Collector: Akins, Zoë, 1886-1958
Extent: 7,354 pieces; 185 boxes.
Repository: Huntington Library. Manuscripts Department
Abstract: Personal and professional papers of American writer Zoë Akins.
Language of Material: English


The collection is open for qualified researchers.

Publication Rights

The status of the literary rights for Zoë Akins remains unresolved at this time. Please consult the curator of the collection for additional information. Willa Cather stated in her will that none of her letters are ever to be published. Therefore, no copies of any kind are to be made of these letters; additionally, the letters are not to be published or quoted from in any print or electronic medium. These restrictions are noted in this Finding Aid and on the folders.

Preferred Citation

Papers of Zoë Akins, 1878-1959. Huntington Library. Manuscripts Department

Acquisition Information

Zoë Akins, Purchase, March 20, 1952, Gift, July 28, 1952; estate of Zoë Akins, May 12, 1961; Henry O'Neil, Gift; Walter R. Benjamin, Purchase, January 10, 1978; Occidental College Library, Gift, January 21, 1982; R. E. Evans, Gift, December 23, 1986.

Biography/Administrative History

Zoë Akins (1886-1958) was a dramatist, novelist, poet and screenwriter. Born in Humansville, Missouri, on 30 October, she was educated at home before attending Monticello Seminary in Godfrey, Illinois, and Hosmer Hall in St. Louis. While a teenager in St. Louis, Akins wrote poetry and criticism for William Marion Reedy’s Mirror; in 1905, she moved to New York to be an actress but eventually found writing to be her true talent. Her early plays include, “Iseult the Fair,” “Papa,” “The Magical City,” and the moderately successful “Déclassée,” with Ethel Barrymore. In 1928, Akins moved to California permanently to work as a screenwriter under contract to Paramount and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where she became a favorite writer of George Cukor. During this time she wrote the screenplays “Christopher Strong” and “Morning Glory” for Katharine Hepburn and “Camille” for Greta Garbo. During these years she continued to write for the stage and, in 1935, won the Pulitzer Prize for her dramatization of Edith Wharton’s story, “The Old Maid.” In addition to many screenplays and plays, Akins also authored two volumes of poetry, criticism, two novels, teleplays, magazine and newspaper articles. On March 12, 1932, Akins married Capt. Hugo Rumbold, an artist and set designer from a British diplomatic family, but, tragically, he died only eight months later on 18 November; she never remarried. Akins lived the remainder of her life in Southern California, where she died, after a brief illness, on October 29, 1958.

Scope and Content of Collection

The collection consists of the personal and business papers of Zoë Akins (1886-1958). It includes correspondence with various literary, theatrical and motion picture figures of the first half of the twentieth century. There are also manuscripts of novels, plays, poems, short stories, outlines for plays, and articles. There is also correspondence related to her husband, Hugo Rumbold (d. 1932), and the Rumbold family. The collection also contains various photographs, manuscripts by others, and various business papers (including agreements, accounts, contracts, copyrights, and receipts). Correspondents represented in the collection include: Aline Barnsdall, Ethel Barrymore, Carlo Beuf, Billie Burke, Willa Cather, George Cukor, Patterson Greene, Sir Gerald Grove, William Harris, Carl Hovey, Jobyna Howland, Orrick Johns, George S. Kaufman, Alice Kauser, Sonya Levien, Anita Loos, Amy Lowell, W. Somerset Maugham, H.L. Mencken, Harry Moses, Kay Nielsen, George O'Neil, Max Pfeffer, Rosamond Pinchot, Una Pope-Hennessey, William Marion Reedy, Lady Etheldred Rumbold, Sir Horace Rumbold, Hugo Rumbold, David Selznick, Edward Sheldon, Sara Teasdale, Harriet Ware, Edith Wharton, John Hall Wheelock.

Indexing Terms

Women dramatists, American - 20th century - Archives
Women novelists, American - 20th century - Archives
Women poets, American - 20th century - Archives
Women screenwriters - United States - Archives
Akins, Zoe, 1886-1958 - Archives
Barnsdall, Aline, 1882-1946
Barrymore, Ethel, 1879-1959
Beuf, Carlo, 1893-1981
Burke, Billie, 1885-1970
Cather, Willa, 1873-1947
Cerf, Bennett, 1898-1971
Churchill, Winston, 1874-1965
Cukor, George, 1899-1983
Fitzgerald, F. Scott (Francis Scott), 1896-1940
Fitzgerald, Zelda, 1900-1948
Greene, Patterson
Grove, Gerald, Sir, 1886-1962
Harris, William, 1884-1946
Hovey, Carl, b. 1875
Howland, Jobyna
Hurst, Fannie, 1889-1968
Johns, Orrick, 1887-1946
Kaufman, George S. (George Simon), 1889-1961
Kauser, Alice, 1872-1945
Lawrence, D. H. (David Herbert), 1885-1930
Lawrence, Frieda von Richthofen, 1879-1956
Levien, Sonya, 1888?-1960
Loos, Anita, 1893-1981
Lowell, Amy, 1874-1925
Luhan, Mabel Dodge, 1879-1962
Maugham, W. Somerset (William Somerset), 1874-1965
Mencken, H. L. (Henry Louis), 1880-1956
Moses, Harry, 1873-1937
Nielsen, Kay Rasmus, 1886-1957
O'Neil, George, 1898-1940
Pfeffer, Max, 1884-
Pinchot, Rosamond, 1904-1938
Pope-Hennessy, Una, 1876-1949
Reedy, William Marion, 1862-1920
Rumbold, Ethelred, Lady, 1879-1964
Rumbold, Horace, Sir, 1869-1941
Rumbold, Hugo, d. 1932
Selznick, David O., 1902-1965
Shaw, Bernard, 1856-1950
Sheldon, Edward, 1886-1946
Sterling, George, 1869-1926
Teasdale, Sara, 1884-1933
Ware, Harriet
Wharton, Edith, 1862-1937
Wheelock, John Hall, 1886-1978
Woolcott, Alexander, 1887-1943
Family papers
Letters (correspondence)
Personal papers

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